Late summer provides us with a plethora of garden fresh goodies - squash, potatoes, corn and lots more! Check out these recipes that feature late summer garden fresh produce, flavored with herbs (of course!).
Ah, the good old summertime - picnics and ants, camping and mosquitoes, and hiking and poison oak. Whoa, wait a minute what happened to all the summer fun? It can still be there with a few simple herbal additions to your “preparedness” kit. Itching and rashes shouldn’t have to ruin the outdoor adventures we’re all seeking this time of year - most especially this year.
Lots of herbs are green and leafy, well almost all of them. But there is one that most of us probably don’t recognize as an herb that is full of vitamins and minerals and specifically beneficial for women’s health. This year it is being recognized by the International Herb Association (IHA) as the herb of the year. The IHA names the genus Rubus or brambles as herb of the year. The two most familiar members of this genus are blackberries and raspberries. For us in the Pacific Northwest, we are well acquainted with both – domestic and wild.
Since raspberries are in season now and the leaves are tender and young, that is the bramble we’ll focus on. Although the berries and leaves may be credited with healing properties, it is the leaves that are typically used in Chinese and European herbal medicine. Red raspberry leaves contain many vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and magnesium, which are all vital for uterine health and may be lacking from the diet. The herb also contains other essential nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, and manganese and Vitamins C, A, E, and B complex.
We’ve all been being a lot more self-sufficient this spring. Depending on ourselves to take care of lots of different things – healthy food, disinfecting surfaces, keeping our families safe and taking care of minor medical issues. We have quite a medicinal herb garden at the farm and many of you have expressed interest in starting a medicinal herb garden or adding to the one you have. Since we weren’t able to hold the class we had planned for April about this very subject, we’re going to share a few insights on this month’s blog about having your own garden of healing herbs.
Having a healing garden in your own yard, brings you closer to the natural cycle of gardening and life. Planting, growing, harvesting and using herbs for healing becomes more than just a gardening process, it can be a part of daily living. From the herb tea in the morning, the yarrow poultice to stop that bleeding cut and then the herb bath to soak away the day’s stress, herbs can be a central part of our daily experiences. They certainly are for us and we like to encourage and educate others so they can enjoy herbs daily, too.
There are a few herbs that are like staples to the medicinal garden. Sage would be one with its many properties as a disinfectant and astringent often used as a remedy for many mouth and throat ills. Rosemary, another favorite, is regarded as antiseptic and astringent. Calendula, that flashy gold and yellow flower is considered mild enough even for children. Comfrey when used appropriately is an effective external remedy for mending wounds and broken bones. Catnip which has been used traditionally as a calmative. These herbs could form the basis of your garden. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, just a useful place to start.
What herbs we’ll be using
With all the information being tossed out in the news, on social media and even from friends and family, it can be difficult to parse out just what you should be doing. It can feel like you’re not prepared, you don’t know enough, and why, oh why didn’t you start or expand your herb garden last year?!
Here are some of the steps and herbs we think are important to take control of your own health during a time such as the pandemic we are experiencing now:
1. Inventory your herbs – know what you’ve got and how much; now is not the time to panic buy herbs of all kinds that may be useful. There is still so much we don’t know about this virus, and as a living entity, it can change, morph and evolve into something new and different. Its best to know what you currently have access to in your herbal pantry. If you don’t know – you can’t use it. Which leads us to the next step.
Every so often skin begins to feel dry and flaky and a good exfoliating is called for. Elbows, feet and even the face can use a good scrubbing every so often. Since scrubbing removes sloughing skin, daily grime and oils, most beauty experts recommend exfoliating your face no more than 3 times a week.
So what can you use that really cleans but scrubs naturally? The grains of both sugar and salt are natural exfoliates. Just add some herbs and oil and you’re ready to go. Since salt is more abrasive, it should be used when doing serious exfoliation such as feet or elbows. Sugar is best for sensitive skin or more fragile/dry skin such as lips or face. When adding to an oil, such as grapeseed or olive oil, sugar is a fantastic natural exfoliate. It's full of glycolic acid, which helps to naturally break down dead skin cells and decrease fine lines.
Peppermint (Menta piperita)
This favorite of the over 400 varieties of mint is grown and used both commercially and by gardeners. It is easily grown in zones 3 to 11 in sun or partial shade. Its fragrance is as pungent as its flavor and both are readily recognized. No wonder it is a favorite flavor for candies and desserts. Since many dessert recipes call for an extract - try making your own peppermint extract to keep and use in your baking or to give as a gift. While fresh works best for the extract, dried can be used. These grain free chocolate peppermint cookies will be a tasty addition to your holiday baking. Peppermint also helps stimulate digestion and alleviate headaches, so makes a terrific tea! It is not only good inside our bodies but can be used in home remedies and body care. As a key ingredient in this amazing whipped body butter, it makes for a tingly soothing foot rub. It has been given as a gift from Erin many times and it's been very well received.
These are a few of our favorite things!
As herb lovers, we often get questions at classes and events regarding what are some of our favorite tools, our favorite herbs, and great books. So for fun, we thought we’d use this month’s blog to create a list of a few of our favorite herbal things. Maybe it will help you find something for the upcoming holidays for the herbal lover in your life.
Books and Magazines
Looks like it’s really cooling down, just in time for Autumn Solstice. And just in time to move that peppermint we’ve been eyeing all summer to its new spot in a raised bed. We started the move last spring, but summer overtook us and we weren’t able to completely get all the plants to their new home. Because summer is not typically a good time to re-position plants, we had peppermint in two spots. Early fall is a good time to move and propagate plants. With cooler temperatures, rain and some sunny days, plants have a good chance to get a good root base started before they need to hibernate for the winter.
Maybe you’ve been wanting an extra thyme or some other valued herb. Rather than looking for an actual plant, it is fairly easy to propagate from your mother plants. Here are some methods for propagating perennial herb plants that we have used and found successful.
Herbal iced teas can be refreshing on a hot summer day while providing us some great benefits from the herbs included. Peppermint, chamomile, catnip and much more can create tasty, beneficial and cooling herbal iced tea. Its easy to make a larger batch to store in the fridge for the week.
Our method is simple (as we always prefer!) – walk the garden with some clippers or scissors and snip handfuls of what calls to you. Follow your nose, blending the fresh herbs that say “Pick me, pick me!” as you walk around. You can start out with slightly smaller batches, as you get to know what you like. Cut stems about 6 inches long, as if you were gathering a bouquet – well, actually you are gathering a bouquet – a tea bouquet! We recommend a good handful of fresh herbs – where you can barely close your fingers together.
As summer approaches and becomes official on June 21st, the first of the summer vegetables begin to appear. Thank goodness for the May rains which kept our gardens watered and the few days of heat that helped those seeds we so diligently planted, pop open and spring forth from the warm earth. The garden at the farm has a few peas ready to cling to the fence, reach for the sky and set forth their tasty pods. Green beans are popping up as well as lettuce and spinach. The tiny feathery carrot leaves can barely be seen but we know they’ll grow tall and by fall we’ll have the orange carrots that we love and store through the winter. The potatoes are planted and summer squashes are going in the ground this week, as well as corn and parsnips.
Since June is Eat Your Veggies month and June 10th is celebrated as National Herb Day, let’s consider the herbs (although you may be missing basil, you should have lots of other herbs to enjoy) that will bring out the flavor of those first vegetables of summer such as spinach and greens of all kinds, sugar pod peas and shelling peas, zucchini, green beans, broccoli and radishes. Here are a few recipes to try for serving those first veggies of summer.
With truly warm (dare we say “hot”?!) weather arriving soon, we are reminded that it is almost time to plant basil. Basil has been a favorite herb of cooks for centuries. It is a window sill herb in many Mediterranean households. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual from the Mediterranean region that grows 1 to 2 feet tall. It is genus name is the ancient Greek word for “king”. This small bush, deep green plant prefers full sun and warm temperatures to grow well. It is commonly associated with Italian cooking, especially pesto, but there are many more uses beyond the kitchen.
Many herbs get added to our herb beds by serendipity. While perusing the farmers market or a plant sale, there is often an herb that jumps out at us – one that we haven’t seen before, and are intrigued by. We may not know anything about it, but our plant senses tell us it needs to be ours. So we take it home, find a spot for it and then watch it grow, all while learning as much as we can by observing it and also doing research. This is how anise hyssop came to join the farm and her herb sisters.
Anise Hyssop is the herb of the year as selected by The International Herb Association for 2019 and then be recognized by the Herb Society of America as the Herb of the Month last year in anticipation of its big year in 2019.
Getting Ready to Spring into Action!
Spring for the herb gals at Garden Delights means we are getting ready not just to begin harvesting and finalize some cleanup but to set and get started on our yearly class series. Our classes are a time to share information and to answer burning questions about all things herbal, secretly one of things we like to do best. We sometimes make presentations to local groups and at once such recent event we were asked about fertilizing herb plants. Most of us think of our perennial herbs plants as sturdy hardy souls who require little attention. That’s part of the beauty of growing them. We did answer the question presented to us and would like to share that information with you.
Herb plants are kind of stuck in one place, unless we move them, so consequently over time they use all the nutrients in their soil. To keep plants healthy and maintain growth for continued harvests, we have to help them have a good source of nutrients which means a shot of fertilizer. A great time for this nutrient shot is in spring which will officially occur this month, so read on to get all the info on how to renew our hardy herb friends with some nutrients.
In bygone days herbs and flowers were used to send messages to ones loved ones. They had symbolic meanings attached to them and the person receiving the bouquet would understand the hidden meaning in the blooms and leaves. If a young woman received a bouquet of red roses, it was a symbol of romantic love, much as it is today. The romantic use of herbs was at its height during Victorian times, when herbs and flowers were combined to create romantic success and contentment. Communicate your feelings of love with some of the herbs described here.
Basil — Originally the Romans associated basil with hatred, only meant to drive men crazy. Eventually it became a symbol of love in Italy, and has retained that symbolic meaning ever since. In the folklore of Moldavia, a young man who accepts basil from a young woman is destined to fall in love with her.
Raindrops on rosemary
And thyme in the breeze.
Bright purple sage flowers so loved by the bees.
Bunches of savory tied up to dry,
These are my favorite perennials under the sky.
Ok, so this may not be the finest poetry but with a nod to Rodgers and Hammerstein, our favorite perennial herbs are indeed rosemary, thyme, sage and winter savory. As many of you know we like perennial plants because they typically require less work than annuals. Not because we are lazy, but because they are durable and seem to take care of themselves which gives us more time for other activities in the garden. All four of these herb plants are native to the Mediterranean region so were well known to the Greeks and Romans whose knowledge of herbs was spread throughout the world.
Ah, the aromas of the holiday seasons. Those earthy savory smells of turkey and stuffing or ham and the sweet spiciness of pies. Herbs of every kind flavor holiday meals from sage and thyme in the turkey rub to nutmeg in the pies. Wait a minute, that nutmeg is not really an herb.
Herbs and spices are quite different. Herbs are plants used for flavoring, texture, fragrance or dyeing that grow in a temperate zone. They are plants that have a culinary, medicinal or practical use that you would expect to find in a traditional herb garden. That temperate zone is one reason we all have so many wonderful herbs in our gardens. Spices on the other hand, tend to come from woody plants in tropical zones, a reason why the majority of spices are imported. The Mediterranean region brought us herbs as the Romans conquered the world and the south Asian area brought spices along Marco Polo’s spice trail.
Often we associate herbs with savory flavors found in daily cooking while spices go with sweet delectable desserts. We are of course big advocates for the culinary use of herbs. However, we do also use spices and think there is no reason herbs and spices can’t go together. The holiday stuffing could have shredded or chopped apples and/or cranberries added and along with the sage-y Poultry Blend seasoning sprinkle in a little cinnamon and/or ginger. Winter squashes of all kinds pair well with the traditional French Herbes de Provence Blend and a little nutmeg and cinnamon.
The seasons have turned, moving into fall. You may have noticed some of your herbs changing colors just like the trees or not putting on new growth, well, here's some sage advice for fall thyme cleaning.
Prune - More woody herbs such as sage or thyme may require some actual pruning. Look for dead branches and cut them away and give winter savory, thyme and lavender (if not already done from summer harvesting) a short haircut to be ready for winter hibernation. Unless your rosemary is overgrown or a very large bush, it is best to just leave it be. Prune it as you use it throughout the summer and fall. When things are looking pretty good, a good dose of organic fertilizer will have your herbs ready for spring growth.
The kids will be heading back to school this month ready and eager to get back into the academic groove. In honor of National Kid Month – September- we present some herbal ideas that will get the young ones involved with herbs, maybe the outdoors and putting those academic skills to use in practical fun ways.
The young one in our family is well aware of herbs and even has several of his own favorites. He has been stung several times this summer by the abundance of yellow jackets. Although his first response is a lot of loud hollering, through all the noise he yells “Get Mom!” He knows that mom will get a poultice of plantain (once chewed and slapped on the sting while in the garden) which will pull out the poison and relieve the pain. So this summer he may say that plantain is a favorite herb. He knows about the herbs we grow and use in our food everyday something we talk about all the time. He has learned about herbs from his very beginning. Something we encourage everyone to do.
Begin with food. If you grow herbs, take your children into the garden and let them feel, taste and harvest herbs. Name the herbs and tell them what you do with them. Take some pictures or press some leaves and let them start a scrapbook. Then let them help use those herbs in some cooking. This is a simple and good place to start kids out with herbs easily. Our kiddo enjoys making dill pickles every year, and the umbrel flowers of the dill make for fun and easy harvesting. We have also made pesto from a wide variety of herbs - what fun to chop the herbs roughly so they fit into the food processor (scissors work great for this) and then whirring them up into a lovely green paste with some oil and then mixed with pasta!
Since basil is enjoying all the sunshine, no doubt more than we are, and growing in leaps and bounds, for many cooks thoughts turn to pesto. Traditional pesto is a colorful sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy where it is known as pesto alla genovese. Typically it is made from crushed basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic with added olive oil and parmesan and/or Romano cheese. The ingredients were ground with a mortar and pestle hence the name pesto. It has a distinctive green hue and a light texture. The Italians used pesto on pasta, of course, but it can have many other uses.
Any herb may be substituted for basil and even kale and spinach have been known to turn up in a pesto. Be creative and use your pesto with more than pasta. Making pesto with different herbs uses the typical basil recipe but sometimes with a few changes for the nuts or cheese or change things up your own way. Here are some other herbs to use in pesto and ideas on how to use them.
Basic Fresh Herb Pesto
Prep and Cook time: 20 min Yield: about 1 C
2 C fresh basil leaves or any other herb or combo of herbs, packed (can sub half the herb leaves with baby spinach)
1/2 C freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (about ¼ C)
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c pine nuts (can sub other chopped nuts or leave out)
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
Place the basil leaves and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times. Add the garlic and cheese and pulse several more times. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a small steady stream. Adding the olive oil slowly while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Stir in salt and black pepper. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Put a thin layer of oil on the top to keep it from turning brown.
All information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not meant to help you diagnose, treat, or cure any illness. It has not been evaluated by the FDA.